# [OS X TeX] TeX is not for the faint of heart

Alain Schremmer Schremmer.Alain at verizon.net
Wed May 5 19:30:34 EDT 2004

What is needed UP FRONT is just enough to let people get going.

NO MORE than what MS Word requires.

After /that/, yes, ALL you want.

Regards
--schremmer

Rebecca Weber wrote:

> On May 5, 2004, at 2:40 AM, m wrote:
>
>> If I may chime in here...
>>
>> The introductions given on this particular page and on TeXShop's page
>> as well are still *far* too technical. If one has never ever heard of
>> TeX before, except for those moments of math-students telling him
>> that TeX was the coolest thing on earth, these "intros" don't do a
>> very good job.
>
>
> <snip>
>
>> Programs, support files, macros, commands?
>> Distribution, binaries, scripts, frontends?
>> Device independendet DVI, ASCII TeX source, translated, device, X11,
>> Windows, Unix core, TeX Live, foundation... some guy named Sebastian
>> Rahtz... suddenly teTeX, big advantage: teTeX-texfm, then
>> GhostScript, "run pdfTeX".
>
>
> I've done a lot of explaining of "what TeX is" in the past few years
> (I'm one of those math students who thinks it's at least close to the
> coolest thing on earth).  I wrote something this morning that could
> perhaps be expanded into The Utter Newbie's Explanation.  It needs
> some work before it can take a complete novice to someone who
> understands all of the terms in Mahakk's list, but I think it's a
> first step - it goes from a complete novice to (hopefully) someone
> who's not *afraid* of the terms in the list above.  Those who are
> still feeling the sting of their novice time can judge whether this
> would have been helpful to them.  There would still have to be a
> "second pass" after this, one that answers questions like "what does a
> documentclass do?" and "what is this usepackage business?"
>
> A note on what's below: words which are preceded and followed by
> underscores are meant to be underlined or italicized as vocabulary
> terms.  Everything else is meant to be read verbatim.  It includes
> html commands, so if your mail reader is html-enabled you might have
> some confusion.  The three major lacks in this explanation are a list
> of reference books, a description of where you can go to get programs,
> and some small, non-comprehensive sample files (all of which exist
> elsewhere and could easily be incorporated).  It might also benefit
> from a glossary (which could include terms not used in the
> explanation, like most of those in Mahakk's list).
> Just my two cents,
> Rebecca
>
> _________________
>
> What is TeX?
> TeX (here used as a catch-all term for all the various kinds of TeX,
> such as LaTeX) is a _markup_language_, a system of typesetting where
> you write plain unformatted text (as you might in TextEdit or
> Notepad), and that is turned into pretty formatted text (as you might
> see in Word, only prettier) by a _compiler_.  That is, instead of
> italicized, you type a command that will be interpreted by the
> compiler as "put this text into italics".  Another markup language you
> might be familiar with is html; if not, you can see examples by
> opening a webpage and selecting "view source" from one of the menus in
> your browser (Netscape, IE, Safari, etc.).  Choose a plain page
> (without a lot of graphics, forms, or frames) and compare what you see
> in the original browser to what you see in the source window -- the
> source file has a lot of text that does not appear in the webpage.
> The source file has been _rendered_ into the webpage image, using the
> information from the extra text, or _commands_.  In TeX, we speak of a
> text file being _compiled_, turned into a pdf, dvi, or ps file.  The
> first kind you're probably familiar with from web browsing; the other
> two are just different formats which we can get into later.
>
> Now some examples, comparing to html:
> * To begin and end a webpage, you use the commands <html> and
> </html>.  To begin and end a TeX document, you use \begin{document}
> and \end{document}.  TeX has more options than html, though, so you
> will also have to include some information before the \begin{document}
> to tell the program which options you're exercising.  In particular,
> you must include the command \documentclass{classname}, where
> classname is replaced by the kind of document you want to make:
> article, book, letter,... the list goes on and is added to regularly.
> * To italicize in html, you enclose the text in <em> and </em>, as so:
> <em>this text is italicized</em>.  In Tex, it's a single command with
> the italicized text enclosed in curly braces: \emph{this text is
> italicized}.
> * To center in html, you enclose the text in <center> and </center>.
> In TeX, these change to \begin{center} and \end{center}.
>
> If you've looked at some TeX files, your next question might be
> "what's with all the dollar signs?"  Some commands in TeX only work in
> _math_mode_, and you tell the program you're entering or leaving math
> mode via a dollar sign.  This gives TeX the ability to double up on
> commands - to give one command two meanings, depending on whether it's
> in math mode or not.  An example is the dash: out of math mode, that
> is, simply -, it is a short dash.  Inside math mode, $-$, it is a
> minus sign and so is longer.
>
> That brings us to one other point: some symbols are used specially,
> like \ and $, and so there are different commands that produce that > symbol on the page. If you type a single \, TeX expects the next > thing it reads to be a command. If you want a backslash to appear on > the page, that next command should be \ again: \\ will print a > backslash. To get other special characters, you also precede them > with a backslash, as in \$ for a dollar sign.
>
> The best way to learn TeX in the beginning is by looking at other
> people's files (as is also true for html and most programming
> languages).  Once the syntax (way of writing it) starts to make more
> intuitive sense to you, there are a number of excellent reference
> books from which to learn more commands.  <insert list of books here>
>
> How do I get it?
> To use TeX, you need a "front end" and a "back end" (or
> "foundation").  The front end is the editor and viewer: where you type
> your text and where you view the compiled result.  The back end is the
> program that does the compilation along with all the information it
> uses to do so.  These pieces are all put together for html in the form
> of web browsers (well, those with built-in web design programs, like
> Netscape Composer), but for Tex (if you want it for free) you must
> installation here - I'm biased toward iInstaller/TeXShop, which was
> very easy to install and use; mention could also be made of
> WinEdt/MikTex for any Windows users who might happen by>
>
> -----------------------------------------------------
> Please see <http://www.esm.psu.edu/mac-tex/> for list
> guidelines, information, and LaTeX/TeX resources.
>
>
>

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